Commentary: Muschamp optimistic yet again entering '12
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 12:13 a.m.
DAYTONA BEACH — When Will Muschamp opened his hour-plus stay at the podium Tuesday night by saying “it's an exciting time to be a Florida Gator,” he probably wasn't aiming for irony.
But those in the fan base — including the 200 or so at Tuesday's Volusia County Gator Club annual spring gathering — have to be wondering when it'll be great to be a Florida Gator sometime other than April. November or December, perhaps? Dare they dream of January?
Of course they dare, because in April, all is well.
A year ago, Muschamp was upbeat and thrilled and basically shot out of a cannon because, well, that's how brand-new coaches behave.
When they started firing real broadsides in the fall, he realized the challenge ahead. When his quarterback went down in Week 5, it was time to lower the life rafts.
Now Muschamp is making his second annual spring run of booster clubs, and yet again he's upbeat and thrilled and shot out of a cannon. This time it's because he truly seems to think the worst is behind him and brighter days are ahead. Or at least they'd better be.
“I'm very optimistic,” he said before hitting the podium Tuesday night at the Daytona Beach Resort and Conference Center. “Be realistic of where you are, but you see the improvement throughout spring. That doesn't matter until the fall starts, obviously, but I do see improvement. There's no question we've made strides. Where we are, we'll see in the fall.”
Muschamp is no Steve Spurrier, no Urban Meyer. At settings like these off-season fan gatherings, that's mostly a good thing. Spurrier would rather be playing golf or, at worst, sitting on a porch talking about playing golf. He suffered off-season enthusiasm reluctantly, but tried to smile. Meyer would rather be anywhere else — schmoozing was a necessary evil, and he didn't mind admitting it, which is why his two championships made him appreciated by the Gator masses, but hardly endearing.
Muschamp is much more of a people person than those two. Yes, he seems to channel Ron Zook during prepared statements, rushing through his checklist like a man performing at gunpoint — evaluating the coaching staff and the roster, position by position, player by player, in a cadence only slightly slower than a livestock auctioneer.
But then it's Q&A time, and while the intensity doesn't leave, at times he's borderline Bowdenesque. He never eyeballs his accompanying staff, begging for the hook and an exit door. He answers all questions, and when there's a lull, he waits until another hand finally pops up and begins another rally.
He doesn't hate this stuff, and that's a plus.
On the downside, however, he won't suggest anything ahead that doesn't involve heavy lifting. With Spurrier and Meyer, Florida landed coaches at the top of their games, seemingly a generation ahead of the competition in terms of scheming, motivating and, in Meyer's case, recruiting. They were aerial shows and thrill rides; Muschamp is pure trench warfare, and you get the feeling that type of plan depends on a strong foundation, which hints at a need for patience.
Will the patience hold out, and will it be rewarded? With those highly discussed recent revelations about the mess Meyer presided over and eventually left behind, Muschamp likely though unwittingly bought some more time.
His likeability quotient doesn't hurt either. For now, anyway. At the exit door, one longtime fan seemed to sum it up.
“I love him. If he can win, he'd be perfect.”
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